By Charles Sercombe
The assistant to former City Manager Katrina Powell got a little extra something after she left her job in April.
In May, contrary to the terms of DanNisha Reeder’s employment contract, she received a $2,461 payout for her unused vacation and personal time off (PTO), according to city records obtained by The Review through a Freedom of Information Act request.
According to Reeder’s contract, also obtained by The Review through a Freedom of Information Act request, she had to use her vacation time and PTO hours or lose them.
The contract specifically says: “Such vacation and PTO leave, if not utilized, shall be lost and have no value.”
Reeder, who was paid an annual salary of $40,000, had a total of four weeks off per year. She was hired by Powell in August of 2015.
It is not clear why Reeder received a check for unused time off, but sources say Powell authorized the payment after Reeder left employment with the city.
Powell spoke glowingly of Reeder, describing her as “my ride or die chick always.”
That statement was made during Powell’s farewell speech to members of the state-appointed Receivership Transition Advisory Board, which supervises all financial matters and contracts of the city.
The issue of Reeder’s payment came to light at last week’s city council meeting when former city Treasurer and Deputy City Manager John Gabor threatened legal action unless the city pays him for vacation time that he did not use.
He said that the withholding of the payment is an act of “discrimination.”
Gabor, who was paid $105,000 a year plus $10,000 toward his life insurance, had the same contract terms Reeder had regarding unused time off. Gabor initially submitted his request for payment of 128 hours of unused personal time off to Acting City Manager Kathy Angerer.
Angerer told The Review she denied the request because his contract does not permit it.
Gabor told The Review he told Powell that Reeder’s payment was improper. He said he brought that to Powell’s attention on a Friday last May, and the next Monday he was placed on administrative leave by Powell.
Gabor still had a month left on his employment contract and was paid for that period.
The Review was unable to contact Reeder. Powell did not return a call for comment. Subsequent calls to Powell ended with a message that the call could not be completed.
Reeder wasn’t alone in getting paid for unused vacation time.
Powell was paid almost $10,000 for unused personal time off (PTO) when she left employment with city at the end of June. Her contract permits her to accumulate up to 180 hours of unused PTO.
However, it is not clear whether she is allowed to cash out those unused hours. There is no language in her contract that speaks specifically on what happens with those unused hours at the end of her employment.
Her contract only says that anything above 180 hours cannot be “credited and the hours are lost.”
Powell’s yearly salary was $115,000 plus $500 a month for vehicle allowance.
Powell was hired by former state-appointed Emergency Manager Cathy Square, who left here when Powell came on board two-and-a-half years ago. Square is now the city administrator for Highland Park.
Square told The Review it was her intent for Powell to be paid for unused time off.
“Vacation is usually paid out,” Square said. “That’s not unusual.”
Gabor, who was also hired by Square at the same time Powell was, said he asked to have his unused vacation time to be paid out included in the terms of his contract. He said Square and City Attorney John Clark both rejected that request.
“They told me we don’t do that,” Gabor said.
Acting City Manager Kathy Angerer declined further comment on the entire matter, saying it is being reviewed by the city attorney. However, she said the issue will be addressed with city councilmembers and the mayor.
It is unclear if that will be in an open meeting or one closed to the public. Closed meetings are allowed under specific exemptions in the state’s Open Meetings Act.